Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Warbler Fallout!

In mid May 2015, a severe storm blew through Winnipeg and grounded many songbirds for a couple of days. In the cold aftermath of the storm, when the sun finally started to poke out between the clouds on the afternoon of May 18th, many normally arboreal songbirds came out to feed on the ground or low to the ground, foraging for invertebrate prey in lawns, gardens and parks (since so little food was available higher up). The birds needed to find food quickly to get back in shape to continue their migration and so I sat down on the lawn in Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg and took the chance to photograph them as they hopped around me feeding. They were so intent on feeding that they lost their usual shyness and some hopped right by within a few metres. Here is a photo sequence of some unusual views of from that afternoon:

American Redstart
Three photos of different male American Redstarts striking stunning poses and hunting over the lawn:

Black-throated Green Warbler
I had a hard time choosing between the scores of photos I took of this male Black-throated Green Warbler who fed around me with great success, plucking tasty morsels from the grass every 45 seconds or so. The latter photos show some of the bugs he caught:

Wilson's Warbler
This male Wilson's Warbler chasing a fly was a delight to watch but presented a real photo challenge. I only managed one sharp image (note the fly just in front of the warbler - as always, click on the photo to view full screen):
Magnolia Warbler
Several male Magnolia Warblers put on a show too feeding around the edges of the wooded areas (first photo) or sometimes right out on the lawn (second photo and third photo). The third photo also shows a prey item:

Palm Warbler
Pal warbler often feed on the ground in parks when they come through in migration so it was less unusual to watch them on the lawns but still too beautiful to ignore:

Black-and-white Warbler
Both male and female Black-and-white Warblers were feeding unusually low. Although they kept to their nuthatch-like feeding style of creeping up and down tree trunks, they nonetheless were right at the very base of the trunk or even on the ground itself (where the food was). Here are three photos:  


Ovenbirds and Northern Waterthrushes often feed on the ground but they are somewhat secretive. On this afternoon, many were feeding in open areas of leaf litter and even on concrete pathways as these two photos show (the latter also showing their "walking", as opposed to hopping, stride):

Northern Waterthrush
Here are two photos on Northern Waterthrushes, hopping around the edges of muddy puddles. The second photo gives you a sense of their excellent camouflage: 

Gray-cheeked Thrush
It wasn't just warblers that offered exquisite views. Many other songbirds were also out in force. Four species of Catharus thrush (Gray-cheeked, Hermit, Swainson's and Veery) were hopping around by the hundreds offering fantastic views and comparisons of their subtle field marks:

Veery is abundant as a breeding bird in southern Manitoba; however, they are very difficult to observe well on migration. I enjoyed photographing them feeding on the edges of wooded areas:

These are privileged types of these beautiful songbirds. Under typical circumstances they would not approach a human observer so closely. These shots were made possible by understanding how the weather would affect their migration and having the patience to wait for the right moment to take out the camera and then by sitting quietly without moving and allowing the birds to come to me.


  1. Fantastic! That Wilson's Warbler shot is really something!

  2. Wow! What an amazing series of photos. It's kind of bitter sweet, the opportunity to witness it, but knowing what caused it.


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